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Know Your Rights!

Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) in 1935 to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy. (Source:




The NLRA is one of the most enduring aspects of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. Often referred to as the “Wagner Act,” in recognition of New York Senator Robert F. Wagner who drafted the legislation, the law established the right of employees to organize, form labor unions, and collectively bargain with their employers. (Source:



The National Labor Relations Act States:

  • Section 7: “Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations to bargain collectively through representation of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining…”


  • Section 8 (a): “It shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer…to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7…”

This means that you are legally protected when you volunteer to help organize and to join and support a union of your own choice. This includes, but is not limited to, such activities as filling out a union authorization card, getting your co-workers to fill out cards, attending union meetings, wearing union buttons, passing out union literature, and discussing the union with other workers.

You have the legal right under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act to join or support a union and to:

  • Attend meetings to discuss joining a union.

  • Read, distribute, and discuss union literature (as long as you do this in non-work areas during non-work times, such as during breaks or lunch hours.)

  • Wear union buttons, T-shirts, stickers, hats, or other items on the job.

  • Sign a union card asking your employer to recognize and bargain with the union.

  • Sign petitions or file grievances related to wages, hours, working conditions, and other job issues.

  • Ask other employees to support the union, to sign union cards or petitions, or to file grievances.


Protection from Employer Action

Under Section 8 of the National Labor Relations Act, your employer cannot legally punish or discriminate against any worker because of union activity.  For example, an employer cannot legally do the following:

  • Threaten to or actually fire, lay off, discipline, harass, transfer, or reassign employees because they support the union.

  • Favor employees who don’t support the union over those who do by granting special promotions, job assignments, wages, hours, enforcement of rules, or any other working condition.

  • Shut down the plant or work site or take away any benefits or privileges employees already have in order to discourage union activity.

  • Promise employees a pay increase, promotion, benefit, or special favor if they oppose the union.

You can help protect your legal rights by:

  • Keeping written notes of any incidents in which company officials or supervisors threaten, harass, or punish workers because of union activity.

  • Immediately reporting any such incidents to your organizing committee and the union staff.

  • Your report should include what was said or done, who was involved, where and when it happened, and the names of any witnesses.


Enforcing your Rights

Some employers try to prevent the workers from joining a union. The best way to encourage your employer to recognize the union and negotiate a fair contract is to build strong union support at your workplace. If your employer violates the law, the union can help you file “unfair labor practice” charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  The Labor Board has the power to order an employer to stop interfering with employee rights, to provide back pay, and to reverse any action taken against workers for union activity.

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